Saumya Tewari

Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative

Coca-Cola launches its sugar-free variant 'Coke Zero' in India targeting globetrotters and well-informed young consumers.

After almost a decade of its global launch, Coca-Cola Zero enters India, its 149th market, in an attempt to offer Indian consumers more choices.

Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative
Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative
Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative
Unlike Diet Coke which has a unique taste of its own, Coca-Cola Zero's taste is closer to the regular Coke. This comes as good news for consumers who do not want to compromise their health yet want to enjoy the original flavour of Coke.

The company will distribute Coke Zero in the top 100 towns in more than 180,000 outlets, both in traditional as well as modern trade. These cities contribute almost 90 per cent of the SEC A urban population. Coca-Cola Zero will be available in 300ml slim cans, 400ml and 600ml PET bottles at the same price points as a regular Coca-Cola.

Debabrata Mukherjee, VP - marketing, Coca-Cola India says that the company's consumer research revealed that people are seeking more choices in everything they do, which includes their hydration needs. "This was the right time to launch Coca-Cola Zero," he says adding that it will particularly appeal to young adults looking for a great-tasting beverage with Zero Sugar1 within the age group of 18-29 years (Sec A/B).

New route

In a unique marketing initiative, Coca-Cola has tied-up with e-commerce giant Amazon India to launch Coca-Cola Zero exclusive on its platform for pre-orders for two weeks starting September 19. The drink will also be available on Hindustan Coca-Cola's portal 15 days after the launch on Amazon.

According to Mukherjee, the partnership with an online retail player is aimed at global Indians who are early adopters of new retailing channels. "The company received bookings for over 32,000 cans of Coke Zero within 48 hours of the launch," he adds.

Initially, the calorie-free drink will be available in retail outlets like the Reliance Retail chain. Besides, it would be first made available to partners like low cost carrier IndiGo, quick service restaurant chain Subway and INOX Leisure. The opportunity for growth is tremendous. With a per capita consumption of 14 per year for Coca-Cola's products, compared to the global average of 94, the Indian market offers a huge opportunity.

The company has prepared a communication plan which includes digital media, television and print campaigns. The launch event was attended by its brand ambassador actor Farhan Akhtar, Olympian luger, Shiva Keshavan, fashion designer, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and fashion photographer, Atul Kasbekar.

In India, Coke Zero will be manufactured at 10 Plants - company owned as well as franchisees. With the Indian launch, the brand is now available in all the top six markets for Coca-Cola, the others being the US, Mexico, China, Brazil and Japan. Coke's major competition in the country is PepsiCo. In 2012, the company, along with its partners, had announced that it would more than double its investments in India to $5 billion (about Rs 28,000 crore) by 2020.

Coke-lovers Inc

Experts believe that Zero is a drink for those Coke lovers who do not want to add extra-calories in their bodies. The TG, they believe, is niche but will be loyal to the sugar-free variant once they hooked on to it.

Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative
Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative
Coca-Cola Zero: Calorie-free Alternative
According to Divyapratap Mehta, former national planning director, Publicis Capital, Zero promise is more relevant to consumers who love the original Coke taste but don't want the sugar. "I know people who are hooked on to Diet Coke taste beyond its sugar-free benefits. Coke Zero, on the other hand, is for people like me who love the original coke flavour but don't mind cutting down a bit on calories," he notes.

Mehta adds that the TG for Coke Zero most probably knows about the drink and seen it on the imported foods section of stores. "All they need to know is that it's now available in India at an Indian price," he says. Asked about the health risks that artificial sweeteners (like aspartame) use in Coke Zero may pose, Mehta notes that certain consumers may stay away or restrict usage of artificially sweetened foods. But with healthier sweetening alternatives round the corners, it is a matter of some shift in regulations and smarter innovations

Coke Zero's advertising, suggests, Mehta, should hover around converting the calorie-conscious Coke lovers to move to Coke Zero. "Make it the drink the heart and mind both say yes to," he quips adding that Coke Zero can also be positioned as a cool symbol for the slim-fit generation.

Jagdeep Kapoor, CMD, Samsika Marketing Consultants, dubs Coke Zero's launch as a sensible move as it caters to a different and sharper segment. He believes that the company move to distribute the drink in the top 100 markets is a smart move as the 'discerning consumer' lives in these cities. Kapoor dubs the tie-up with Amazon as a 'progressive' step because trials can take place online while regular repeat consumption will take place offline.

Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll, stresses that health benefits will decide the future of food products and Coke Zero is a step in that direction. He also highlights the inherent dangers of artificial sweeteners, which may turn away consumers, but there is also a high rate of addiction to its taste."I guess parents will be less generous in indulging their children," he remarks, adding that the product - although positioned as premium - is priced right for a fizz drink. "It is all about growing the basket of consumption through multiple choices," argues Khalap.